Thursday, 29 November 2018


by Giovanna MacKenna

Perhaps the gaps in me
are strange unknowable
things, shimmering pools of
all my existences torn out by
this life’s relentless realities

Perhaps, where now I see those
dim dark spots of empty chilling
grey, I once was tailored whole into an
ocean of light and endless possibilities

Perhaps when I glance away from
the voids I fail to fill, but which
always follow, I’ll find an echo, an after
glow, a faint but shining gleam, a shadow
of my once roaring brilliance

Perhaps one dull and ordinary moment
I’ll find my hands filled with threads of
blazing scorching life - and I will slowly
stitch myself together once again

Tuesday, 27 November 2018

Boat search in Kelvingrove Gallery - 12th October 18

Ridiculous museum. You have singularly failed to play host to our writing day, our search for painted boats. 

We arrived to doors that were closed after putting pennies in parking meters set to the wrong time. Your maps enticed us to art-promised floors where we found bare wooden rails, obstructive screens and stern signs warning of slips, of threatening behaviours and others that simply demanded money donations.

At last I found a scattering of ill-lit paintings in the bowels of museum, a didactic storyboard of panels, after escaping screeching children among dinosaurs in glass-boxed artefacts from Kilmartin.

The Glasgow Boys, hurrah! Surely I’ll find a boat here, a boat in Scotland? But no. A punt on the Ouse and a shore in Devon, dammit where are the boats in Scotland? Even the Dutch Shipping Trade collection fails to display the magnificent harbour that we see in the advertising poster

Dali’s Christ on the cross is home. We stumble across it around a dark corner instead of at the end of a long corridor or gallery that would afford it an appropriate viewing. Christ himself look sadly down to the bottom of the painting where ho! There! On a dry shore leaning forlornly on its side, an empty little boat. “Thank you.” I breathe, feeling my despair acknowledged in this dearth of maritime magic.

I settle in front of JS Lowry’s seascape, disconsolate but grateful, taking refuge in this impossibly simple layering of green and white lattice that threatens to spill over its frame onto the gallery floor. No swell or curve, just still representation of light on water. I breathe in the sea air and give up my search.

Finally we meet in the tea room clutching pads and pens, ready to scribble our our gallery boat stories. Black and white clad young waiters, boys and girls, sail about silently inefficient and out of reach. We find a table at which we cannot sit, a menu from which we cannot order but finally secure coffee and take up our pens with a great shout of unassailable camaraderie - "Avast, Kelvingrove".

After being admonished for staying too long at our unwanted table without paying our, evidently top secret, bill, necks cricked from attempts to catch somebody's eye, we stumble laughing into the carpark deluge with poems in our nets. And nestling in Helen's bag?  The beginnings of this marvellous voyage that she says is a work in progress but is, to my eye, well ready to set sail:

by Helen Elsley

In the mud below the crannog, stirred centuries later,
coriander and peppercorns, seedspices
dropped through straw and flooring cracks
to sink through sepia peat-water,
settled into silt.
Now their traces, sifted out
tell tales of journeys.

From this empty loch, the Lords of the Isles
kept hold of their lands, from backwater Finlaggan,
where the grass grows uneven mounds 
over the rubble of their houses.
The marshy reedbeds that made their fortress
are traversed by duckboard paths, for access.
We wonder at the sound of stirred rushes, 
loud in the absence of traffic.

Octofad, Collebost and Scarista
declare their strangeness amongst the homespun
Tarbets and Mhors.
Craftsmen of Govan built a Viking ship 
of overlapping planks, for the Galleries.
Shipbuilding skills
washed up on our shores in such boats
sank down through the generations
to settle on Clydeside.

"This jet necklace
was left with a whetstone and a knife
In a cist burial in Monybachan, Argyll
with no bones to tell us if 
it belonged to a man or a woman."
But surely the question is – jet?
Carried from Whitby, most likely, to this glen,
made precious by the shine and rare distance.
Who fetched it so far?

When all the echoing empty places
with single track roads that take us across moors
to the middle of nowhere,
were forests that fuelled our fables,
and bordered in our homes on the landside,
remote islands and sealochs, were at the very hub,
butted up against the bustleof the sea highway.

Photo by Cap'n Bev taken from Easdale Island

Monday, 26 November 2018


Today's contribution is from Giovanna MacKenna (she sent me two wonderful pieces but I'm rationing you...) and the photograph is mine, from Pollok park. Love those silvering Holly trunks.


We chased the light as we travelled, not far
but to unknown spaces cloaked in peace
crisp fronds of frosted edges bright with
the silence only a lack of humans brings

We stopped and played and refuelled
ourselves on air thats sharpness cleared
a path through the clutter of our minds

Our fires brought light so wide and
searing we had to shield the flames
to see the blanket laid above, pierced
through with the embers of ancient worlds

Friday, 23 November 2018

Who am i

by John Young

I am the reflector, the director, the magnet, the connector the flame.

To be or not to be, the enigma... Me.

The burden carrier, the happy to take the blame guy, playing with the kids, doing everything the same. Life is mundane.

The open book, the talker, the listener, the keeper of secrets, Jack of all trades the master of none. Friend, confidant, inspiration, watcher.

The discipline the babble the small talker.

The positive the yin and yang.

The dad, captain, the fool the old guy who's not so cool

Tuesday, 20 November 2018

Captain of the Page

by Cap'n Bev

We cast off,
coffeed, caked, connected.
My brave warriors-for-wellness have dandled their pens across rippling pages.
In the breeze of a prompt they set sail on each their own journey,
splicing the tension, the pain and the fear into splendid strong ropes of preparedness,
shyly sharing their craft for the wonder and cheer of our woodstove cabin crew.

Now we’re off
in search of the kingfisher, cormorant and coot.
The moorhens and mallards stalk close to their nested banks,
Peccadillo’s engine heart beats with the laughter of the chatting crew,
the propeller pushes on against a strong green fold of plaited wake
and I?                                    

I am the happiest captain of the cut.

Saturday, 17 November 2018

If Moses came fae Maryhill

At last! we have coaxed (coerced?) submission from Helen; and a thought provoking one at that! Thank you Helen - more please.

by Helen Elsley

If Moses came fae Maryhill
his maw would’ve had to hide him
in these tatty bulrushes along the canal edge,
with the wash of the Peccadillo to rock and soothe
and the squawky mallard shenanigans
to make the baby laugh.

Coorying him away from the Border Force
to keep him out Dungavel’s gates,
she’d lay him down where the pylons stand sentinel
by the calm waterside.
tucked behind the high flats
out of the main road roar and the city rush.

In the absence of Pharaoh’s daughter,
Miriam would have to point out her brother’s
Tesco value baby box
to a cannily chosen Bearsden dogwalker
with a child-friendly labradoodle,
and room for one more in the new extension.

If Moses was fae Maryhill,
would Balmoral or Bute House
thole his full-grown urge to speak
four-square, truth to power?
And would he finally lead us
out of this mess of our own making
into a more promising land.

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

It doesn't have to be poetry...

It doesn't have to be poetry... prose is fine. C'mon the Writing Gang, let's see your scribbling!

See this stunning description from Aileen:


Sunlight glinting off the water and the smell of diesel. Orange and green light on the wall filtered through a stained glass window. Outside, we cut through still water, smoke from the stove wafting on the cool breeze. All the trees are clinging on to their colours, still exuberant in their beauty, which is precious and fragile. One storm and it will all be gone.
The canal glimmers with bronze and gold from reflected trees, painting their colours on the water. The blue of sky, inverted landscapes like upside down paintings. I would like to walk into this other landscape, to find a doorway into a world of upside down trees. I would walk along the sky, crossing clouds, and I would see everything in a new way. It would be restful to lie amongst the clouds and to look up at the earth, watching the boats make their way along the canal above my head, people crossing bridges and living in upside down buildings, not seeing me sitting in the clouds, changing my perspective on everything. If I fall asleep I will drift into this perfect blue space, resting on the heavens, cradled in infinity.
This is where I shape my dreams, I paint my landscape in all the colours of the rainbow and every dark cloud is just a quiet place to rest.

Oor Angie slams it!

This surely deserves a post of its own – congratulations our Angie Strachan who won her poetry slam at the Tron last weekend -  she goes through to the Scottish poetry slam championships in January next year.

We’re buzzing! C’mon Angie!

See Angie in action online here at Headtorch

Howling gales and blogs

Cap’n Bev facilitating:

9th November found us bobbing in the basin unable to sail with force 7 gales in the city. We had a low turnout with illness, London appointments and work afflicting our numbers so the session was used to take a good hard look at the blog… do you like it? I’m concerned that much of the inspired writing that has been shared during our Water Story sessions is simply languishing in notebooks at home when much of it is of a quality that really should be out there. I elicited promises of submissions; well done John and Aileen who came through… the rest of you? I’m coming looking for it!
Summer on the canal
by Aileen Paterson

The blue green glint of dragonflies
flying in the sun
white lilies
fallen pink blossom
yellow iris
a circle of gulls
in the hazy sky above
the sun makes me lazy
dozing on a summers day
lily pads harbour life
as words emerge
on blank pages
thoughts brimming over
below the surface
a sunken world
of algae covered trolleys
brown trout
a pink rose clings to a bank
catkins scatter
small flying things
like tiny planes escort us
past pink and cream blossomed trees
where wood pigeons meet
in shaded groves flecked
with dappled light
drifting seeds like fairies
travel with us from the rushes
secret paths wind
through the trees
the glide of swans
with fluffy cygnets trailing
two herons stand in the reeds
fly up as we approach
then finally our boat is home
and the fairies vanish
back from where they came.

The Darkness
by John Young

 Ying meets the Yang,
 the sadness infuses with happiness, oil on water, they never congeal.

The deep trough has no end of misery, the shallow depths of trauma, never ending bleakness, the helplessness, the cushion of despair, engulfed, no light is visible, cul de sac existence of banality and servitude.
Although the chink of light, the glimmer of hope  a sliver of serenity the power of hope, within the darkness there is always light, the ying in the yang.

Taking Time
by Bev Schofield

Hollow and haggard the
9-5 stagger on busses and trains,
in sunshine or rain… not for me thanks!
Shuffling to old and to grey,
marking what’s left in pennies and days.

I’m taking time as mine,
the finite line of this life, my gift.
Sift through achievements and money if you will,
but still I would find my own peace of mind,
reach for outcomes and art
that are my definitive part.

“Brightly darkening” on 26th October ‘18

Cap’n Bev facilitating:
As the clocks go back and the gales strip the last leaves off the trees we found ourselves a stunning day of autumn sunshine for this session. I am always mindful of the fact that the loss of leaves allows in more light just when we need it with our short winter days. My loquacious writing facilitation on this theme proved superfluous in a group of writers that were simply delighted to be on Water Story again, pens at the ready and looking forward to getting out on the water. And so we did… for a good long cruise all the way to Bishopbriggs and back. Pat reported to Sheila who sadly was not able to join us:

Pat Sutherland:
“Today on Peccadillo was splendid: the sun shone, the autumn colours blazed along the banks, and everyone was in frivolous form.  Our sail lasted longer than usual and we had lots of writing time.  There was orange drizzle almond cake, rice crispie chocolate thingies, Baklava, and of course Cathy's gingerbread which tasted marvellous as ever, even after an accidental baptism of coffee.  There was a lot of very fine writing and John was praised for his profundity; later, buoyed up by this acclaim, he announced that his final piece of work was subtle.  Bev had lit the stove, which made inside very cosy, while outside on the prow it was decidedly chilly.  Halfway, the fire went out, so Peter and John set about finding a remedy - Peter wrote a very funny account of this caveman competition.  I did a bit of origami with some newspapers, as taught by my father-in-law, and the flames leapt up.  A woman got the fire going.

Afterwards I really did feel brighter and keen to work on what I'd started.  Writing surely is therapeutic, but then, so is being with a group of lovely, funny people, and so is chugging through still waters while the swans look on and the coots scuttle aside, and seeing the seasons change, and eating cake with impunity.  Thank you, Bev."

(On the day Pat shared with us a fun poem about what we had passed on our sail. However when she got home and crafted it she decided it was, in fact, a sad story.)

Canal Bank

Buckfast bottles, lager cans,
bits of bike and frying pans
polythene and Irn Bru,
plastic sheeting, one old shoe.
Sledges, bedsteads, chicken bones,
sodden cartons, traffic cones,
pizza slices, sausage rolls,
a baseball cap reduced to holes;

well obscured through Summer's green,
they lurk and rot, unseen
till Autumn blows away the pall
bringing to light a putrid windfall.
And on the water, mallard and coot
paddle round bottle tops and root
for picnic scraps, the human tribute
to goddess Gaia.

My city, dear green place, Glas cu,
what have your children done to you?

by Pat Sutherland

September 7th Water Story’s chosen theme was “Craft”

Cap’n Bev facilitating:
My objective here was to take our writing to the next level. It’s all very well journaling and free-writing but a time comes when the material begs attention, when the scribblings we produce are worthy of further work and of sharing. Unable, ever, to resist the maritime puns I called the session “Craft”, and in our contemplations and sail invited writers to consider this approach, not just to writing,  but to their individual lives. Which of their life gifts did they feel they should be honing, taking to the next level? Such endeavour calls for the mindfulness that Aileen admirably captured in her reflection of the day:

My work

My work
is to sit quietly.
My work is to sail amidst reedy banks
to sip tea whilst drifting over lily pads
the still water a mirror
for every building we pass
a looking glass for the trees.
My work is to pay attention
to the way the clouds form
then break apart
ever changing
never needing to achieve
a thing but to be
who they already are.
My work is to see
how sunlight warms the trees
is filtered through leaves
belongs with shadows.
We pass buildings once thriving
now shuttered with black plastic
like mourning clothes.
A gull lifts from the river
its dripping feet make green circles
rippling the water,
breaking the trees’ contemplation
who know their work is growing
connecting with the earth
and all that lives.
This is our purpose
our work
to live our lives
as we see fit to.
To pay attention to everything.

by Aileen Paterson